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Hampton Ike

This paper continues down a discussion that we have spoken of in class regarding the huge difference that emotional states can have on decision making between what appear on the surface to be very similar emotions. Shame and disgust would almost instantly come to mind as similar emotions intimately related and prior to this class I would have assumed them to have nearly the same effect on emotional decision making. However, the authors of this paper found that shame (and other emotions) lead to an 82% reduction in odds that a person would purchase tobacco and disgust only had a 66% reduction. The impact of these findings speak for themselves. However, the authors bring up one of the main concerns in regards to the significance and impact of their findings; how long will the individual remain committed to not smoking or not purchasing the cigarettes at a given price. Tobacco is an addictive substance and the memory of a pictorial warning and the emotive state it induced are temporary and will be forgotten quickly. Will the consumer's commitment to not smoking remain as time elapses? The answer seems to be yes, the picture and text warnings do seem to have a significant effect over the long run at reducing smoking. The authors point to Canada and Brazil as prime examples that continued campaigns that induce negative emotions toward smoking can lower smoking habits over a period of time. I think the best example that these pictorial and text campaigns work is by looking at how hard the tobacco companies are fighting against these campaigns. Tobacco companies wouldn't be spending millions and millions of dollars fighting these pictorial and text ad campaigns on their cigarette packs if they didnt think it would hurt their bottom line and reduce smoking.

Austin Hay

I think we all find the results of this paper interesting, and a little intuitive (though maybe not to the magnitude that the authors claim). The authors are able to observe differences in behavior based on a variety of emotions elicited among participants and that feat is impressive.

In a more general sense, it would be interesting to measure how a variety of emotions changes purchasing behavior of other products (surely something done daily behind closed doors by big corporations testing their ad campaigns). The reason I think more studies being done on this would be interesting is due to the increase in internet sales. When we make purchases online we are held captive to any ads the company decides to display (however briefly, but consider even just a flash of an image can affect emotion). This differs from ads we are bombarded with when shopping at a physical store/mall. At a store/mall it's easy to overlook ads (as it's a busy, moving environment). On a webpage, though, it's harder to evade. So maybe the increase in internet shopping is not only a consequence of consumer convenience, but also of the desire of companies to better manipulate consumers emotions to increase sales.

Let me clarify what I mean by ads. Think less of ads for specific products, but ads for a certain emotion (and probably also a product). It's much easier for the company to create a "happy" or "excited" environment for a consumer on a computer screen than it is to create that environment in a 20,000 square foot department store.

Hampton talks about the fight that Big Tobacco puts up against these ad campaigns to protect their bottom line. So if they understand how effective these emotion-eliciting ads can be, surely other corporations do too and use it to their advantage (which is potentially greatest in the online realm).

I know I'm being a bit conspiracy theorist here but I felt like this paper was sound, uncontroversial, and intuitive. It added some evidence to arguments we all understand at some level, so I didn't have much to say about it directly.

Ali Norton

This paper was an interesting follow-up to “feeling is for doing” paper that we read last week. As I wrote last week, the notion that emotions impact how we prioritize and consequently how we make decisions stood out to me. I considered the results from the Pathos and Ethos paper in the context of the theory that emotions influence decision making by indicating how we prioritize our goals. In this context, the results that certain strong emotions (shame, anger, anxiety, distress) were more successful in reducing the decision maker’s probability of buying a tobacco product than others, leads me to wonder what the neuroscience is behind these findings. If certain strong emotions elicit stronger responses to decision making (in the context of probability of buying tobacco products) I’d be interested to know how the differences in emotions could be explained neurologically. In terms of the paper and its relevance in policy, I found it really cool that the findings of this study could and can be used to improve the health of populations by eliciting these specific strong emotional responses in anti-tobacco advertising.

Kasey Cannon

Like Austin pointed out, I found the paper very interesting but also very intuitive. It makes sense to me how and why anti-tobacco pictorial warnings would decrease the odds of buying tobacco products. However, what stood out to me most while reading this article was the actual results that came from the authors' experiment. Increased distress reduces the odds of buying by 79%, increased shame reduces the odds of buying by 84%, increased anger reduces the odds of buying by 84%, increased anxiety reduces the odds of buying by 83%, increased fear reduces the odds of buying by 71%, and increased disgust reduces the odds of buying by 60%. Each of the results are huge percentages! I am slightly surprised that disgust had the lowest effect of each of the emotions mentioned above. I think of disgust as a very extreme emotion, so I am surprised it didn't have a greater effect on people.

Michael Fitzgerald

I found the topic of focus in this experiment a very interesting one to use. To use smoking makes sense because of the large number of both statistics to use to reduce likelihood of purchase and equally large number of images to do the same. Both the statistics and images should illicit powerful emotions in people, but the massive difference in results in these two techniques is fascinating. However, the interesting part of it was the difference in how it affects different groups. The authors suggest that there are somewhat large differences between the effects on smokers and non-smokers. This makes sense because the decision to buy cigarettes is much different to these two groups. Non-smokers are making a slightly less emotional decision than smokers. Smokers may take the images more seriously because the risks are more real, but they could also make an emotional (and physical in terms of nicotine addiction) decision when actually buying cigarettes. I think it is important that there were differences in the results for these two groups because they are going through much different decision making processes.

Madison Smith

I’m starting to realize that behavioral economics can have a very large impact on marketing and advertising to the masses as a few of my classmates have discussed. I feel like it’s easy sometimes to know that you would or would not buy something based on an ad, but the emotion that comes with that isn’t necessarily something that we all think about. This paper puts more of a reason behind our actions rather than just people do or do not like this product or would or would not buy it. As Austin mentioned, I also think in general this paper does a good job of laying out its findings in a way that is honest and unbiased. I think that it has a clear goal; to find out what really can work in the prevention of smoking. I thought that the last paragraph was most interesting because it shows how papers like this can have a real impact on policy. Without the correct data, people like the FDA make aren’t able to make the decisions that could actually have real effects on people’s lives.

Patrick McCarron

I find it fascinating that different emotional responses reduce smoking by different amounts—namely that fear reduces smoking the least. Logically, the fear of cigarettes killing you should reduce smoking the most. In a sinister way, have smokers ultimately accepted the fact that cigarettes will kill them, thus making fear a less important response than, say, shame?

And why does shame have such a significant effect on smoking? This implies that the fear of dying is less important to smokers than being judged by others. Once again, as we’ve seen time and time again throughout this course, the brain does not always influence our consuming behavior in completely rational ways—as the fear of death certainly should reduce smoking more than shame.

Katherine Hodges

In the section on emotional measures, I found the discussion of basic emotions to be interesting. The author briefly discusses literature which looks to identify "basic emotions, on which emotions all the other emotions are based." In the case of the emotions anger, fear, distress, disgust, anxiety, and shame, I wish the authors had teased out the literature more to show which basic emotion these all rely on.

Another area of interest within this paper was the amount of exposure tobacco consumers have to CWs. One statistic mentioned that a pack-a-day smoker is "exposed to the warnings over 7000 times per year". With this thought in mind, I thought a lot into the advertisement qualities of cigarettes. The authors say that the packages are usually prominently displayed in stores, which is something I have seen a change in. Another aspect of looking into behavioral WTP could be the influence of the "impulse buy." Gum is the perfect example of this notion. It is prominently displayed at check-out areas and is very cheap compared to other items (aprox. $.90-2.50). This display encourages people to act on impulse and buy the products. As an addition to these CWs, could the movement of tobacco products away from plain view and making them more difficult to access reduce WTP even more?

Genny Francis

I thought it was really interesting that this paper distinguished between current emotional state versus predicted emotional state from making a certain choice, and how they impact decision making differently. I was also surprised how much the impact on buying tobacco products varied between different emotions elicited by the pictures and text. I would have expected fear and disgust to have similar impact as shame, anxiety and anger. I was wondering if there are any scientific explanations behind this finding. I also think this type of research is really interesting because it could be applied to a wide variety of areas.

Lizz Platt

The idea that a simple picture on a pack of cigarettes can decrease a person’s odds of purchasing and their willingness to pay is amazing. The presence of a deterrent on the package seems intuitive, but what the authors show is that the difference between a written warning versus a pictorial warning is significant. In the experiment, a scale of pictures was used to measure the participants’ feelings. The scale is much like something one would see at a doctor’s office as a measure of pain. In my opinion, this is an easier way to vocalize one’s feeling rather than placing words to emotions. I was particular impressed by the “concerns and broader implications” section. While I was reading, I kept going back to the idea that the effects of these warnings may decrease over time. As people become immune and ignore the picture of infected organs, the effect may fade away. Rather than shying away from the issues within the study, the authors present them in greater detail. By recognizing the limitations to the study, results become more practical. Possibilities for future research also lead future studies and policy changes to better the public welfare are established. In future research it would be beneficial to better understand the long-term effects of the emotional stimulus and if the same results are seen with similar goods, such as alcohol.


I, like Lizz, thought that the caveats that the authors make in their conclusions are crucial: shocking imagery that provokes strong negative emotions may work to deter nonsmokers from picking up the habit, but in individuals who already have made strong positive emotional connections to the act of smoking cigarettes will not react in the same way: the immediate and powerful positive emotion will overcome the negative emotions induced by the graphics. I agree with Lizz that making these caveats and investigating these effects in their analysis of the implications of their research lend greater credibility to their findings and in fact make this paper more useful to public health advocates and policymakers.

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